Two Jobs

images-1“I am just so tired,” Rochelle told me recently.  We’ve had a very hard time getting together for our weekly interviews since she started working two jobs about a month ago.  The grocery store location she will be working for has pushed back its opening for a second time, so she is still working at one of the company’s other locations.  She officially quit her job at the home for the disabled but is picking up two or three days a week there for extra money.  The home has many open positions and desperately need her to fill in.  This works out well for Rochelle, too, right now.  She juggles the two jobs and the driving back and forth between where her mother stays and her own apartment.  This is a sixty-mile round trip.  One week the children stay at her mother’s, and one week her mother and the children stay with her.  It is no wonder Rochelle is tired.

“The grocery store is so busy,” Rochelle said. It is the busiest location the company has, and they say if she is successful there, she’ll be successful at the new location, too.  It has been quite a while since Rochelle has worked in such a busy situation.  The department store she had worked for two and a half years ago was very busy until the demographics changed, and they started to wind down to closing the store.  She was only working one job then and had a set schedule.  Her schedule now isn’t set and changes weekly, and her children aren’t in school.  Juggling two jobs and three kids is tiring for anyone.

Rochelle and I were finally going to meet for an interview a couple of mornings ago.  My sister, Jessie, the anthropologist, was in town, and we were going to have lunch together after the interview.  Jessie and Rochelle had never met.  Rochelle really wanted Jessie to meet her children, but they were at their grandmother’s, thirty miles away.  Since she didn’t have to work that day Rochelle drove the sixty mile round trip to pick up her children the evening before the lunch.  It was important to Rochelle that she show Jessie (who funds the interviews) her proudest accomplishment.  She wanted to demonstrate that she was a better mother to her children than her mother had been to her.  Rochelle spent several hours “combing the country” out of her daughters’ hair so that they would look “proper” when meeting Jessie.  Rochelle spent some time on her own hair, as well.  They all looked great when they arrived at the restaurant.

Since Rochelle had the children with her that morning we skipped the interview again, and called the lunch an interview.  Everyone had a good time, and Rochelle’s five year old son, Kyle, exclaimed “this is great food,” as he dipped his French fries into ranch dressing and munched on chicken. Rochelle said they hadn’t really had breakfast that day. We even had desert since it was a special lunch: peach cobbler and ice cream all around.  The children were relaxed, talkative, and well behaved.  They thanked me for lunch, but I told them to thank Jessie since she was paying.  “Are you going to split it?” asked Kyle, aware, even at five, of the economic realities of life.  “No, my sister is paying for all of it,” I said.  So they thanked Jessie and hugged us both when they left.  Rochelle had every right to be proud of her accomplishment that day.  Her children did her proud.

Maybe next week Rochelle and I can get together for a real interview.  Other women juggle two jobs, three kids, and no husband, but it certainly can’t be easy.  I know I would be tired too.

The New Job

UnknownRochelle started her new job last week. “It ain’t easy,” she told me. “I am the worst cashier ever.” As with all new jobs, it takes practice to learn how to do things, and training time is never enough. She bagged groceries the first day and was put on the cash register for only an hour. “It’s hard. I forgot to smile and greet the customer; then the potatoes got weighed and priced twice; plus I forgot to circle how much they saved and I forgot one lady’s coupon. But the day went by real fast.” Mostly she is concerned she is not going to get enough hours even when the new store, the one she was hired for, actually opens. That store’s opening was pushed back a couple of weeks so she is now working as extra staff in one of their nearby stores. She was told she will work more hours when the new store opens in about a month. For now Rochelle is picking up a few hours a week at her old job. They have quite a few openings and need the help.

School is out for the summer, and Rochelle’s children are being cared for by her mother. Sometimes it is at their apartment and sometimes it is at their grandmother’s boyfriend’s house, which is thirty miles away. Rochelle’s mother has lived with her boyfriend for about twelve years. The younger children love it there since they can go outside and help in the garden. It is a more rural area. The eleven year old daughter finds it boring. They have done this for several summers and Rochelle says it has worked out in the past. The grandmother and her boyfriend are both somewhat disabled and are at home all day. They don’t have a car.

Last week there were no crises. Bills got paid, and Rochelle was even going to get something out of the pawn shop today. A church in a neighboring town had paid her past due electric bill and given her 3 boxes of food. They had also given her 3 fans. Rochelle has air conditioning, but her electric bills run too high, and she is trying to conserve. Electric rates are higher in the summer, and the cost of electricity has gone up as well. To make matters worse, the apartment house Rochelle lives in was constructed with the assumption the tenants would rely on air conditioning in the Texas heat. It is poorly insulated and has no provision for cross ventilation. Rochelle doesn’t want to be caught by surprise.

Rochelle isn’t comfortable in her new job yet and says she actually misses the people she cared for in her old job. Transitions are difficult for most people. Still, fingers are crossed and she hopes things will be better than they have been for the past year. Hopefully she will not get too frustrated while she adjusts to her new employment. She knows that, stressful as these early days are, the new job offers a much better future than the old one, with better pay, the promise of raises, and benefits that were never part of the old job. The elements of Rochelle’s life are still precariously balanced: her mother’s health could fail; her car could break down; her hours at either one of her jobs could be fewer than she expects. Still, it has been a while since Rochelle has had a nice, crisis free week such as the past one.